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Sound Bites: Joe Bonamassa, Jonathan Edwards, James Henry

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This week’s new music roundup includes titles in blues, melodic pop, gospel and Americana/folk, all released within the last couple of weeks.

Billy F. Gibbons – “Hardware” (Concord)

It’s been a while since we’ve heard new music from ZZ Top but their founding member’s third solo album in six years is very much in the vein of that band at its best. On “Hardware,” Gibbons is joined by drummer Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver) and guitarist/bassist Austin Hanks on a steamy collection of concise, mostly original riff-heavy, gravel-throated blues rock recorded in the desert last summer. Highlights include the opening cut “My Lucky Card,” that sets the tone and packs a wallop in two and a half minutes. “She’s on Fire” picks up the pace with a vintage ZZ Top vibe, as does “Stackin’ Bones,” featuring guests Larkin Poe. Gibbons has fun with desert rocking theme on the spooky guitar soaked spoken-word closer “Desert High.”

Joe Bonamassa – “Now Serving: Royal Tea Live From the Ryman” (J&R Adventures)

In the midst of the pandemic, the prolific blues rocker performed a special concert for web viewers from the stage of Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium that was viewed by over 100,000 fans watching live from home. Bonamassa and his band performed his latest studio album, the British-blues themed “Royal Tea,” in its entirety a month before release, along with a live mash-up of Jethro Tull’s “A New Day Yesterday” and Yes’s “Starship Trooper.” Highlights include an extended take on the slow-burning “Why Does it Take So Long to Say Goodbye,” and guest vocalist Jimmy Hall joining in on “Lonely Boy.”

James Henry – “Pluck”

James Henry is a first-rate singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist born in Liverpool on the day The Beatles released “Love Me Do” – a positive omen for sure. On his first album in a decade, Henry’s pop sensibility is at its sharpest on a dozen hook-filled cuts that are entirely self-performed and sung. “Pluck” is an inspired guitar driven power pop set that sounds a bit like a great long-lost Squeeze record but is in reality another example of an uber-talented lyricist and music maker deserving of a much higher profile. It’s available directly from the artist at www.JamesHenry.net.

Leslie Jordan – “Company’s Comin’” (Platoon)

This album is a true surprise from a performer best known for making us laugh on shows like “Will & Grace.” The hymns featured here are favorites of Jordan’s from his early church going years in rural Tennessee. Guests include Brandi Carlile on the countrified “Angel Band,” Dolly Parton on the bluegrass colored “Where the Soul Never Dies,” Eddie Vedder on “The One Who Hideth Me” and Morgane and Chris Stapleton on “Farther Along.” Five brief bridge tracks give us a peek into the studio environment as we hear moments of rehearsal and comic relief. This is a solid and sincerely performed country gospel collection from a performer who has just crafted another fascinating chapter in his varied career.

Jonathan Edwards – “Right Where I Am” (Rising Records 207)

One of the most surprising things about the new folk-pop-country album from Jonathan Edwards is that it’s his first entirely self composed record after 50 years of recording. The man who scored a smash hit with 1971’s “Sunshine” has been no stranger to Maine throughout his career, performing in virtually every part of the state at one time or another. He’s been an official Mainer for some time and recorded the entirety of this album at two studios in Portland. Edwards’ 19th album proves that his songwriting chops are finely tuned on the tone setting title track, and its successor, the pro-marijuana themed “Drop and Roll.” He thanks fans and listeners for sticking with him on the moving “50 Years” and draws an inspired parallel between songwriting and eternal love on the touching “There Comes a Time.” See Edwards in concert at Jonathan’s in Ogunquit on July 28, Portland’s One Longfellow Square on October 8, and Stone Mountain Arts Center on October 29.

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 June 2021 09:52

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